We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

‘New’ driving regulations? Who knew?

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, April 12th 2013

Drivers must slow down and move left, if possible, when passing parked emergency vehicles. Photograph by: DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

Governments do a very poor job of notifying the driving public of a change in rules and regulations governed by the Motor Vehicle Act. The most recent example of this less-than-effective notification involves emergency vehicles engaged at the side of the road.

Police, ambulance, fire and towing personnel are all protected by a law that has been on the books for a little more than three years. When passing such emergency personnel, motorists are required to slow to a speed of 70 kilometres per hour if the posted speed is 80 km/h or more. They must slow to a speed of 40 km/h when the posted speed is less than 80 km/h. There is also a requirement for all traffic to move to an open same-direction lane on a multiple-lane road. The reason for the lower speed and greater space cushion is to protect the emergency personnel. There have been too many close calls when drivers who are unaware of the new regulation come far too close for comfort.

Lately, police in B.C. have been judiciously enforcing the supposedly “new” regulation. They have even set up sting operations to trap drivers who do not move to an open lane and/or do not slow for emergency vehicles. When drivers are unaware of a relatively new regulation, they are understandably upset when they get a $173 traffic ticket.

Don’t blame the police. They are protecting themselves and fellow emergency personnel when they step up enforcement stings. The fault lies with the lack of effective information flowing from government to the driving public. “Who knew?” The answer is: “Not many drivers.”

The lack of notification is nothing new. The law concerning transit buses entering traffic from the curb lane has been on the books for about 15 years. Buses have the right-of-way to enter traffic after dropping off and picking up passengers. All vehicular traffic must yield to the buses.

Last year, I was doing a public-relations filming session when a member of the crew was incensed because a bus pulled out into traffic from the curb, after signalling the intention. He had never heard about the law being changed to favour bus drivers. Who knew?

A few months ago, I asked a senior driver to turn left into a business across double-solid yellow lines. He balked at the suggestion. The driver was doing a refresher drive in preparation for a driver retest. There used to be a law preventing such a manoeuvre. It was repealed several decades ago. Who knew?

Another age-old misconception concerns a manual and automatic transmission licence restriction. There is none for a newly qualified driver. The restriction to drive only an automatic vehicle, when successfully completing a driver’s test on such a vehicle, was repealed in the 1960s. New drivers are able to drive a manual as well as an automatic. Skill is the limiting factor, not the law. Who knew?

Most drivers are surprised to learn that seatbelts are not mandatory when in reverse gear. Left turns from a red traffic light are permitted onto a one-way street. A single solid yellow centre line means “pass with extra caution.” Who knew?

Is it too much to ask the government to have the new laws included in every insurance-renewal document mailed out yearly? A social-media campaign could be launched when new laws are passed. Maybe gas stations could post a seldom-understood law at the pumps.

Any additional notice would be welcome, considering our present “who knew” state of affairs.


Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.



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